It is a conundrum, because however original your plot may
seem, you need to contrive a reason for a group to form. How should they begin? Perhaps there is a backstory connecting some
or all of the players. An example of
this approach is in Will Wheton’s Titans Grave where character backstories are
discussed and secret bonds are disclosed to the Games Master.
Another simpler approach is a reason that attracts the
players to one spot, such as a call for adventures and the promise of riches
for successfully completing a mission. I
decided to loosely follow this second approach, bringing the group together at
the docks of the town of Nis-Ton. Their
reasons for being there were their own, but each was looking for an
opportunity; perhaps to earn more money, perhaps for adventuring, perhaps they
hoped to escape the land of DaNis altogether.
In much the same way as Character Creation, I left the
players to choose their reasons for being there. This has both advantages and
disadvantages. The main advantage, as I
see it, is that they are in total control of their characters and can develop
them organically. I can then suggest
paths for them to follow during the roleplay but they can choose where they go
from there. The main disadvantage is
that they are complete strangers and they have no bonds to each other or to a
central plot. The introduction of Long
mid-way through this episode highlights the loose bonds between the characters.
What worked really well at the docks was that the players
grasped the situation quickly and decided that there was an opportunity worth
exploring. They then advanced the plot
with their actions and dice rolling.
The finding of a horse and cart was a single line plot
that developed because Hector did not roll well when perceiving where to look
for a horse and did not ask anyone. So
rather than go straight to the transportation store, they successfully deceived
a resident and took their horse. Then
they had to deal with the transportation store for the cart. In this case, the characters of Nomo and
Hector started out being civil and ran an errand for the store owner; collecting
flowers that grew on the cliffs ledges, but when that didn’t work out they
resorted to tossing him over the side of the cliff. Hector is definitely a bad influence on
Nomo! The interesting part is that they
had already secured a horse and cart but decided that they needed an extra
horse! The poor store owner needn’t have
been so roughly discarded! But this is
what makes roleplays so interesting – you never know how players and plot will
A lovely moment was when Orix decided to pay special
attention to the horse they commandeered and named it Loki. I liked that personal touch, which he also
displayed when creating the Weasel familiar.
Another character-driven bonus was the strange friction between
man-of-the-wilds Long and the dry-witted drow Hector. Long simply didn’t trust Hector. To be fair to Hector, if someone threw a warhammer at me I would not warm to them either!
Still, it is moments such as these that make each party unique, for
which I am very grateful.
Agora Core is designed to be a D&D 5th edition campaign that takes place in a fantasy realm. The players participate remotely using Skype and Roll20. You will get to meet the players through the Agora Core Episodes, but I will also post Player Character Profiles over the following weeks. But what of the world they will inhabit, what is it like?
DaNis is a spectre of the place it once was. The fertile plains have long since been swallowed up by the Da; the mysterious and constantly shifting desert. The river Nis is the life-blood of the lands and whilst it runs the land on either side continues to sustain life. There are two main towns in this area – the port town of Nis-Ton is an important supply line to other settlements and Mid-Nis is a hub for the many clans and settlers in the area.
DaNis is an annex of the Kingdom of Thoregar, which stretches east, past the Hussarian Mountains into the lush basin of the Dudron before meeting the rocky halls of Tratridra and Vatet. To the west lies miles of wasteland where only those crazy or cold-blooded enough survive in the fiery Arlatla. The south is nought but sea but merchant ships do occasionally sail in from distant, exotic shores of which only books and stories tell; they normally leave DaNis disappointed with what they find. To the north (once the Nis turns around) the road is rocky and baron and only those belonging to the mysterious Mara Society go on willingly.
Map production by Jon Paget, created using Inkarnate (Inkarnate.com).
Name: Hector Nyrna Played by: Ben Race: Dark Elf / Drow Sex: Male Class: Rogue Strengths: Dexterity Weaknesses: Intelligence
Unique features: A drow is an uncommon race on the surface world and so will attract attention.
Additional Notes from Player: Hector is a moody, vain, arrogant, durable fighter with a few tricks up his sleeve. Background: A dark elf living in an underdark city. Has dreams of Ezakina, Archfey, lady of the Fey. They strike up a relationship. He is told that a medallion of hers is kept by someone high up in the drow ranks, She says she wants him to take and wear it. Will strengthen their connection. In exchange for entering her service, he will be rewarded. He sneakily steals it and flees the underdark to the upper lands…..
Development during series 1: Hector has lived up to his arrogant and durable fighter status. He is not afraid to speak his mind or sleep if his surroundings do not interest him. His visions show that the drow are seeking him and the medallion that he stole. Ben has provided plans for his level ups and as a Warlock, he may well encounter Ezakina again.
Character Portraits used: 60 Terrible Character Portraits for Creative Commons Release by ‘A Terrible Idea’
The final section of this blog is the episodes themselves. I have been recording the audio for each episode as we have gone on, since the beginning. I have then provided some background and allowed the rolls of the dice to be displayed on YouTube.
If anyone wants to recommend a better approach or if anyone likes this style, please let me know. Also, if the length of each episode could be shortened or is about right.
I will provide links when I refer to a particular episode, but series 1 (following the characters during their Level 1 character statuses) is now available to view.
The other ongoing section of this Roleplay blog will be Dungeon Master (DM) Notes. This is a fun, section and a behind-the-scenes or perhaps more aptly behind-the-Schemes look at what occurs during the campaign. More likely than not, the players have not taken a road that the DM had prepared in advance, and very likely the players have not behaved at all predictably. This provides both awkward and delightful moments where the storyline rails are removed and anything goes. DM Notes will taker a closer look at elements of the storyline that went untold or were unravelled!
As part of creating any roleplay, characters are an essential part of it, especially when you factor in the Player Characters (PC) who drive the story and are the reason for creating the roleplay scenarios – to be played out and to see what happens next. Along the way, the Player Characters will meet many intriguing, charming, dangerous, downright despicable, duplicitous or law-abiding non-player characters (NPCs) with whom they can interact. This section will aim to give you the lowdown on who these characters are, what their purpose was and how ‘fleshed out’ they really were.
I started creating this roleplay back in late 2015 as I had developed a craving. This wasn’t a simple itch, it was deeper than that. I had run weekend roleplays before, collaborating with other Dungeon Masters (DM)/Games Masters (GM) within the friendship groups that shared the love of fantasy and storytelling along with my Brothers and myself. These could be very rewarding but also very frustrating because the amount of work didn’t amount to the gameplay length – this was especially true with collaboratively run roleplays where ideas could be sacrificed for a cohesive storyline or if players wanted to stick with certain groups.
So my deeper itch involved taking the time to create a new fantasy roleplay from scratch and finding players who were prepared to do it for the long haul – from Level 1 and up!
The other desire was to try and use the new 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. This was designed to be a lot simpler than the system I was used to – version 3.5 – and relied more on story-telling. I had also taken the time to develop a character creation system in excel, and wanted to put it to good use.
As I type, we are nearing the end of the players’ time as Level 2 characters. It has been very interesting seeing how the players have interacted with the storyline and with each other. This has affected my levels of preparation and style as a DM and it will continue to evolve along with the players as we learn about the roleplay system and about the world known as Agora Core.